SBJ/October 8-14, 2012/Game Changers

Game Changers: Laurel Richie

Photos: SHANA WITTENWYLER; NBAE (INSET)
Richie values her relationship with WNBA players.
She presented Tamika Catchings (above) with the MVP
trophy last year.
Laurel Richie
WNBA
President

Laurel Richie came to the WNBA in May 2011 with no background in professional sports, but the marketing industry veteran has proved to be a quick study. Since taking over the top spot at the WNBA, Richie has steered the league to several key benchmarks. Among those is its groundbreaking marquee sponsorship with Boost Mobile, a multiyear agreement that notably put the company’s logo on WNBA jerseys but also includes a raft of other activation.

“This year is the first of Boost Mobile’s full activation, and I couldn’t be happier,” Richie said. “People are seeing the deepening of the partnership.”

Now, Richie is setting her sights on growing the WNBA’s fan base, particularly in the wake of a 2012 season that saw average attendance dip to its lowest point since the league began in 1997. Under Richie’s leadership, the league this year promoted the success of the WNBA-dominated, gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team. The WNBA also helped celebrate (and activated around) this summer’s 40th anniversary of the federal Title IX legislation.

“The focus is now about getting more people engaged and attracting more people to experience the league,” Richie said. “There is opportunity in the outreach.”

— John Lombardo
  • Biggest professional disappointment: That my mom passed away before I joined the WNBA.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Mahatma Gandhi: You must be the change you want to see in the world.
  • How would you describe effective business leadership?: Creating an environment where good things can happen — where people feel inspired to do their very best work.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Learning the ins and outs of a new industry.
  • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Traveling the globe in search of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

“Laurel has brought to the WNBA years of experience in corporate branding and management, and her commitment to empowering women has been unwavering during her tenure at the WNBA. She is extraordinarily passionate about growing the league.”

  • Adam Silver, NBA deputy commissioner
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